Go'o Shrine in Kyoto on the western side of the Imperial Palace is dedicated to all things pig.
The shrine enshrines Wake no Kinomaru (733–799), an adviser to the Heian Period Emperor Kammu (737–806), and the courtier's sister Hiromushi.
Instead of the usual komainu (mythical lion-like beasts) standing guard outside the shrine, a pair of wild boar do the job instead.
Legend has it that after saving the Emperor's heirs from a plot led by the Buddhist priest Dokyo, Wake no Kinomaru was exiled on the orders of the Empress Koken, who had patronized the "meddling" priest, was possibly Dokyo's lover and may have been involved in the conspiracy to change the succession in favor of Dokyo.
Traveling in the wilds of present-day Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, the loyal adviser hurt his leg but was protected by a herd of wild boar, hence the iconography that dominates Go'o Shrine.
Little was made of this story until after the Meiji Resoration in 1868 when loyalty to the Emperor became the dominant theme of official propaganda. Thus, Go'o Shrine was established as a symbol of the new state orthodoxy in 1886.
The shrine is also thought to help those with leg injuries and is also a venue for lavish marriage ceremonies - conveniently situated as it is to a number of hotels which host the subsequent wedding receptions.
The grounds of Go'o shrine contain a statue of Wake no Kinomaru and also an example of breccia (pebble stones naturally cemented together) called sazareishi (さざれ石) in Japanese, reference to which is made in the Japanese national anthem, the Kimigayo. Breccia (made up of angular stones) or conglomerates (made up of rounded stones) take a long time to form and the reference in the Kimigayo is to moss growing on sazareishi - a metaphor for a long period of time.
Five minutes north from Marutamachi Subway Station and west of the Imperial Palace on Karasuma Dori. Go'o Shrine is virtually next door to the Kyoto Garden Palace Hotel.
Kyoto Prefecture 602-0881
Tel: 075 441 5458
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